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ITC Looks at Verizon-Cablevision Skirmish

The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) has formally opened an investigation into allegations by Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) that three digital set-top box models used by Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) violate a handful of the telco's patents. (See ITC Starts Cablevision Set-Top Investigation.)

The probe comes roughly one month after Verizon filed a complaint with the USITC that's looking to block Cablevision from importing three higher-end Scientific Atlanta (now Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)) "Explorer" digital box models (the 4250HD, 8300HD, and 4200HD) that run some of the MSO's interactive applications. Verizon's complaint specifically targeted apps such as Cablevision's interactive program guide, video-on-demand (VoD) interface, and interactive advertising products. (See Verizon Lawsuit Targets Cablevision Boxes, ITV.)

The complaint itself stems from allegations that the MSO violated section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, which tends to focus on cases involving claims of infringement on patents, trademarks, and other intellectual property issues.

Verizon is basing its complaint on five patents that cover delivery of video over communications networks and enabling content and data services through a digital set-top, describing components such as operating systems and the ability to grab content off the Internet. The telco claims that the alleged infringement of the patents is "causing immediate and irreparable harm to Verizon's business."

Cablevision does battle with Verizon's FiOS platform and, so far, has more than held its own. And it's mounting its defense as this new courtroom-based skirmish gets underway. (See Cablevision Still Not Sweating FiOS .)

"It is becoming increasingly clear that Verizon is having difficulty competing on the merits in the marketplace, so they are resorting to filing lawsuits and pursuing regulatory bailouts," the MSO said, in a statement issued today. "This [ITC's opening of the investigation] is a procedural step that has no bearing on the merits of the case, which was filed a month ago, and we obviously plan a vigorous defense."

The USITC noted that the opening of the investigation does not mean a decision has been made regarding the merits of the case.

However, its chief administrative law judge will assign the case to one of its six administrative law judges (ALJ), who will then schedule and hold an evidentiary hearing. The USITC is expected to complete the investigation within the next 45 days.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:39:25 PM
re: ITC Looks at Verizon-Cablevision Skirmish Why VZ has targeted only Cablevision imports so far, other than that the cable operator hasn't gotten its clock cleaned by FiOS. But perhaps they're just waiting to see how they fare with this before going after others. JB
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